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We know the there are systemic inequalities within this country: Calvin Williams, Freeman Capital Founder and CEO

Calvin Williams, Freeman Capital Founder and CEO joins the Yahoo Finance Live panel to discuss closing the wealth gap and how Freeman Capital is focused on wealth management services for underserved communities.

Video Transcript

[MUSIC PLAYING]

AKIKO FUJITA: The pandemic has exasperated a growing wealth gap we have seen on so many levels. The labor market alone pointing to that big divide, jobless rates for Black and Hispanic workers far higher than the national average. Let's bring in Calvin Williams. He is Freeman Capital founder and CEO, joining us from Charlotte, North Carolina today.

And Calvin, it's good to talk to you. You know, we've got a new administration here that has really talked a lot about trying to narrow this divide. And yet, when you look at sort of the data that's out there, it's quite discouraging to see where we start. How are you looking at the ability to close that gap in, you know, what needs to be the first step?

CALVIN WILLIAMS: So, a lot of people look at this problem from two angles-- one from top down, when you think about systemic changes, and then the second is from the bottom up. We know that there are systemic inequalities within this country. And we hope that not just this administration, but all of them continue to take steps forward.

But what we're focused on here at Freeman Capital is, when I sold my own company, I thought I had a little bit of wealth. So I went to try and find a wealth manager. But I quickly found out that I was still broke in his eyes. And no one would help me because I couldn't deposit a million bucks, like most middle class Americans. So what we do at Freeman Capital is giving people the access, the education, and the tools that they need to take action so that they can improve and grow their net worth, personalized just for them.

ZACK GUZMAN: Yeah, and a lot of people would fall under that ability there to put in a million bucks. And we've seen that stressed in the current stimulus discussions about-- and not even, you know, along political lines. We've heard from Fed Chair Jerome Powell kind of talking about this and stressing the need to keep the position of the Fed right now accommodative because you need that bridge for those maybe lower down the income rungs here. Talk to me about what the latest discussions sound like to you on the stimulus front in terms of how that might be getting lost in this discussion around Americans that need that stimulus check and need it to be quite large.

CALVIN WILLIAMS: Well, I think that the thing that people need to keep in mind is that it's not just about the stimulus check. That type of a program will definitely help out. But then things like increasing the minimum wage for those who are impacted will really go a major way.

But something which I believe could use a little bit more attention is that we've noticed with our clients is that they would apply for the PPP, and there were a lot of challenges in those funds getting to communities of color. And so, as the stimulus goes forward, as you're looking at this overall architecture, finding ways to continue to direct those funds to the communities and people who need it the most, so that they can take these steps forward to overcome some of those inequalities to make their life and their clients and families' lives better as well.

AKIKO FUJITA: Calvin, when you go back to the conversation that we had last summer, so many companies during the Black Lives Matter movement coming forward and saying, we will focus more on diversity in our staff, and also, a lot of companies coming out and saying, we're going to invest much more in Black-owned businesses, for example. What's been the impact from that initial conversation? Have you actually seen a change come through as a result?

CALVIN WILLIAMS: So I love this question. I wish it was super easy to say a quick yes, but unfortunately, it is not. Now, especially during this month, you know, this is Black History Month, and for our community and for Freeman Capital, every day is Black History Month. But especially during this month, it's a reminder of the neverending journey for this country and its leaders to live up to its ideals.

And so, this is a great time to continue to see those same companies who might have done a press release, who might have done a tweet, to then follow up and say, what actions have you taken? You know, not just internally, but with that diversified spending, with leadership, with spending more funds with Black-owned businesses. You know, this is a wonderful time to refresh this because it is a great time of Black History Month for that reminder.

ZACK GUZMAN: Yeah, I mean, Akiko was talking about kind of the discrepancies that we've seen in the unemployment numbers among races. You know, you were talking about some of the systemic problems here that we've discussed on the show, including the unbanked and communities that might not have access to the same financial tools that some, you know, whiter neighborhoods might.

When you look at that, how much more needs to be addressed on the systemic front to really solve the issues you're talking about, which comes back to how much disposable wealth these communities have to put to work? What are you hoping for in maybe some of these changes in the next administration to actually see completed?

CALVIN WILLIAMS: So one thing that I would like us to do is to really keep in mind that underserved does not immediately mean people that don't have means. There are a number of people who are doctors living check to check-- engineers, folks who have good income, but may not have the direction, the advice, and the guidance on how to take what they have, be it 30, 50, 100k, what have you, and then best optimize that.

And that is really what we focus on, is that making it personalized for each person. When you look at this from an overall administrative perspective, is that it is really key to focus on really narrow policies that can help have an impact. If you just have a general policy, I understand that the theory is that a rising tide, it brings up all boats. But historically, we have seen that not be true. And so, there are opportunities for this administration and the next to continue to have specific policies to help these inequalities. Because doing it as a overall whole historically has not improved things.

AKIKO FUJITA: And Calvin, finally, I want to go back to what you said earlier about raising the minimum wage and the impact that could have. If we put it in wealth terms, there is a discussion about a $15 federal minimum wage. How much additional wealth does that create if we're talking underserved communities?

CALVIN WILLIAMS: So what that will help out is that it will help people further in-- to improve their quality of life because they're in a situation where they're living check to check. And so, really, in most of these with the stats that we have seen, is that people at this economic level, they also have higher levels of debt and then lower savings as well.

So, this higher $15 minimum wage could have a impact on people's ability to pay down some of this debt and increase their savings, so that when an emergency does come up, they don't have to go to a super high interest credit card, a payday loan, something that is going to severely negatively impact them, but it's not going to be an immediate impact. It's going to be something that will take time.

ZACK GUZMAN: Well, we've seen that gap here in the employment numbers. As I said, we'll get the update here tomorrow when we get the numbers on jobs Friday. But Calvin Williams, Freeman Capital founder and CEO, appreciate you coming on here to chat with us today. Be well.